Controversy made lots of money for Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ. Now Michael Moore is hoping it will do the same for Fahrenheit 9/11, his heavily sarcastic, rather entertaining and relentlessly incoherent screed against the presidency of George W. Bush.
There is very little here that anyone who has followed the politics of the past four years would consider new or revealing; for the most part, Moore’s film is a merry, occasionally sentimental summary of every anti-Bush opinion column ever written.
The most striking thing about the film is not what Moore puts in, but what he leaves out. For example, in a montage mocking the various useless countries that joined the ‘coalition of the willing,’ such as Iceland and Morocco, he never mentions England or Australia; and he never even attempts to explore why not one senator signed the petitions protesting the alleged disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida in 2000.
Moore also makes some astoundingly bizarre insinuations. To hear him tell it, Bush attacked Iraq as a favour to his Saudi friends — but if this is so, then why did Saudi Arabia oppose the war? Moore also pretends Iraq was a happy paradise in which children flew kites and dictators danced with their people, until the Americans attacked; he never acknowledges the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to human rights groups, nor does he address Hussein’s complicity in the first World Trade Centre attack in 1993.
With some justification, Moore criticizes the Bush administration for sending “mixed messages” to the American people, but he sends out some of his own, too, dwelling in one scene on the unsettling fact that some soldiers feel a “rush” when they listen to heavy metal and go into combat, and then ending the film on an “up with soldiers” note.
Moore has always played the race card and pandered to Canadians whenever it suits his agenda — who can forget how lovely Toronto’s ghettos looked in Bowling for Columbine? Now he plucks religious strings, too. One scene focuses on an Iraqi woman who asks where God is after her house is bombed, while other scenes focus on an American woman who wears a cross, prays to Jesus, and sends a Bible to her son, who dies fighting in Iraq.
Given the way he slaps together nearly every anti-Bush argument on the books, no matter how mutually contradictory they might be, it is interesting that Moore avoids the theory, popular in some circles, that born again theology has taken over the White House. Instead, he seems to think faith is on his side. That’s progress of a sort, I guess.